Lenders, landlords, people who rent storage lockers and other things to the public, must always be vigilant about staying in compliance with the SCRA. Servicemembers’ dependents may also enjoy some protections.
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, a federal law that protects servicemembers from certain court actions, is broad and can be somewhat nebulous.
Among the protections servicemembers receive when they are on active duty is protection from eviction, foreclosure and vehicle repossession. The law is clear in that lenders and landlords must obtain a court order before moving forward with any proceedings against a deployed servicemember. Taking even the first step in these sometimes-lengthy processes without obtaining the proper documentation can trigger lawsuits, fines and penalties.
Perform Military Status Check
It is imperative to get accurate information on whether the borrower or renter is in the military before moving forward. The SCRA allows deployed servicemembers leeway in making payments while they are deployed. It also protects them from court actions for a period of time — usually up to a year — upon their return.
But lenders and property owners and management companies also must be aware that in the cases of eviction, foreclosure and vehicle repossession, the SCRA protections may extend to the servicemembers dependent family members.
Section 3959 of the SCRA provides that ” Upon application to a court, a dependent of a servicemember is entitled to the protections of this subchapter if the dependent’s ability to comply with a lease, contract, bailment, or other obligation is materially affected by reason of the servicemember’s military service.”
Thus, if a servicemember has signed a lease for an apartment and is delinquent paying the rent, assuming the property owner does an SCRA verification on the servicemember, the family members may go to court and ask the court for SCRA protections. There is no provision for attorneys fees for the dependents.
The government defines a dependent as someone for whom the servicemember has provided more than half the financial support for the past 180 days.
There are some limitations, however. For instance, protections only apply if the rent is $3,716.73 or less as of 2018. This is the cap for 2018, but it can change yearly.
As a property owner, you may inquire about military service on your rental applications. However, know that servicemembers and their dependents are entitled to these protections even if they were not in the military when they signed the lease.
The same goes for obtaining a mortgage, leasing a vehicle or getting a vehicle loan. The borrower’s or renter’s military status at the time of signing the contract is immaterial. What counts is their military status at the time you launch your efforts to collect back payments. It is at that point that you consider whether the agreement is subject to the SCRA (i.e. signed before or after active duty status) or the MLA.
The bottom line is, never begin eviction proceedings against any tenants or homeowners — or repossess a vehicle — without first checking the borrower’s or tenant’s military status.
SCRACVS Can Help
If your institution or company is large, this could take significant time and effort. The job is made easier by relying on the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act Centralized Verification Service. SCRACVS completes your military verifications for you and gets you results, usually within 24 hours. Plus, we offer a batch discount.
No more tedious, time-consuming checking of each individual delinquent tenant or borrower. We do them all for you and get them back to you in one convenient file. Further, we can provide sworn affidavits for you to bring to court with you for a small extra fee ($20).
Protect yourself from lawsuits, fines and worse. Trust SCRACVS.